The Middle Ages:
1066 – 1485
Mr. Hudgens
English 12CP
The End of Anglo-Saxon England
In October of 1066, Duke William of
Normandy defeated the last of the
Anglo-Saxon kings (King Harold) at the
battle of Hastings.
Thus began the Norman (French)
conquest of England.
Aside from having a bunch of Frenchies
running things, England would be
introduced to a new social system:
Feudal Social System…
Kings, ruling large areas of land by
“divine right” needed a system to
keep control of their holdings.
Similar to the “comitatus” of the
Anglo-Saxon era, Feudal kings
relied on their “lords” to help rule
their lands.
These lords would be given “fiefs”
to manage in the name of the king
I Scratch Your Back…
In turn, the lord was expected to pay homage and
fealty to the king.
Part of this would be providing troops for the king if
the need arose. If the king could collect enough
“shield money” than a standing army could be
Some of these fiefdoms would, over time, become
rather large and the lords would find themselves
with the same problem as their kings.
Knights, etc.
To keep order within the
fiefdom, the feudal lords
would often enlist the service
of a class of warriors called
These knights would operate
within a system of formalities
called “chivalry”
Knights were honor bound to
adhere to the code of
chivalry in order to maintain
their social status.
The Code of Chivalry
To fear God and maintain
His Church
To serve the liege lord in
valor and faith
To protect the weak and
To give succor to widows
and orphans
To refrain from the wanton
giving of offence
To live by honor and for
To despise pecuniary
To fight for the welfare of all
To obey those placed in authority
To guard the honor of fellow
To eschew unfairness,
meanness and deceit
To keep faith
At all times to speak the truth
To persevere to the end in any
enterprise begun
To respect the honor of women
Never to refuse a challenge from
an equal
Never to turn the back upon a
Chivalry and Courtly Love
One of the ideals of chivalry
was the concept of courtly
Knights could be said to
better themselves by
actively pursuing and
adoring a woman
This adoration was
supposed to be nonsexual.
I said, “supposed to be.”
According to the church, the
ideal Christian was to
remain celibate…even in
Knights would often devote
themselves to a woman
publicly and wear colors that
represented her.
This was nice and
everything, but it did women
very little actual good.
The Rights of Medieval Women
This one’s easy.
There aren’t any.
Next slide, please.
Women’s Lot…
Almost 90% of women lived
as farmers during the Middle
Ages and would have lived
very short, very harsh lives.
They were expected to
serve their husbands.
If they worked outside the
home, they could expect
less pay for their
Women were typically
barred from the trade guilds.
Women could not:
• Marry by choice
• Divorce
• Could not own property
unless they were a
• Could not inherit land if a
brother existed
• Could not own a
business without special
So What Could They Do?
Have babies.
• Producing males was of
utmost importance.
• Sadly, upwards of 20% of
all women would die in
childbirth doing just that.
Join a nunnery.
• Some did it for God
• Others did it as an escape.
• They could earn rather high
regard as nuns, largely due
to their chastity
• Women could apprentice
• Often led to sexual abuse by
their “master” or even to
Small Business
• Women could run a small
business out of her home
selling her weaving, etc.
• Women couldn’t practice
“medicine” per se, but some
were very skilled midwives, etc.
• Unfortunately, by the end of the
Middle Ages, many of them
were being burnt as witches
The Medieval Church
The Christian integration we saw during the AngloSaxon period would fully bloom in Medieval England.
During this time period (1095 – 1270), flexing its
newfound might, the Christian church would launch
a series of crusades to Christianize the heathen.
When Christians talk about heathens, they usually
mean Muslims.
The Crusades
1st Crusade
Launched in 1095 by
Pope Urban II
Captured Jerusalem in
It was a great success
for some: Jews and
Muslims were
massacred; women
were raped.
2nd Crusade
• Launched in 1144
and was quickly
3rd Crusade
• 1187.
Yeah, they
lost, too.
More Crusades
4th Crusade
• 1202…again, they
fight over Jerusalem
and lose
Children’s Crusade
• Children, yes, children
marching against the
• Of the 40K present
most were killed or
sold into slavery
5th Crusade
• 1217; Failed
6th Crusade
• 1221; Partial success
• Regained partial
control of Jerusalem
(split with Muslims) for
~20 uneasy years
7th Crusade
1248; Failed
Yet More Crusades
8th Crusade
• 1270; Failed
 9th
1271; Failed
There were various other
Crusades to various parts
of Europe and the Middle
East. Most were largely
The long term impact is
debatable, but usually a
couple of results stand out:
Long lasting ill will and
resentment of Western
Christians by Muslims in the
Middle East who still view
them as politically motivated
acts of western aggression,
which it probably was
Increased trade to the
Middle East
Mixing of cultures
What’s the Point?
The point is that even after the
Great Schism in 1054, ALL western
Christians—even the Kings of
Europe—were under the auspices
the Christian (Catholic) Church and
the Pope in Rome.
That means the Pope was heavily
influential and could pretty much do
whatever he liked.
But that doesn’t mean the kings
liked it…especially, King Henry II of
Thomas a Becket
By the Pope’s appointment,
Thomas a Becket was the
Archbishop of Canterbury
He was an argumentative
cuss (like Henry) and often
sided with the Pope against
King Henry II.
King Henry was annoyed by
this and one day wished
aloud, “Gee, I wish someone
would kill that son-of-aBishop.”
So they did…
Actually, he supposedly
insulted his court and
then said, “Who will rid
me of this meddlesome
I guess when you’re a
king, people take you
seriously, so four knights
broke into his church, and
split his skull with their
Be Careful What You Wish For
Becket’s murder was
wildly unpopular.
Not long after, miracles
were reported at Becket’s
grave and various other
The martyr was quickly
canonized and was
revered for most of the
Middle Ages.
King Henry would be
forced to repent and walk
through the streets of
Canterbury while being
flogged by 80 monks.
So What?
Geoffrey Chaucer’s
Medieval masterpiece, The
Canterbury Tales, is
essentially the story of a
pilgrimage to Becket’s tomb.
His tomb was a popular
pilgrimage destination when
most people were expected
to make a pilgrimage.
In one year in the 15th
century, over 100,000
people made the pilgrimage
to Canterbury.
Why is Chaucer Such a Big Deal?
Before Chaucer came
along, most serious
writing was done in
Latin or French.
With a few notable
exceptions, Chaucer
was the first English
poet to successfully
utilize the vernacular
Middle English.
This, coupled with his
ability to capture depth
of character while
sustaining a strict
attention to meter and
rhyme, places him
securely with the likes
of Shakespeare.
Further Development of English
Chaucer’s Middle English (1 of 5
common languages in England at
the time) was the dominant form of
English from the Norman invasion
through the 15th century.
Middle English is certainly a
descendent of Old English, but
bears little resemblance to it.
Most traces of the old Germanic
words and inflection are gone,
instead replaced by the Norman.
This partially explains why modern
English has so many words
representing the same idea.
An example of M.E. is to the right
The English of Chaucer
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
Canterbury Prologue, Cont’d…
And specially from every shires ende
Of engelond to caunterbury they wende
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Bifil that in that seson on a day,
In southwerk at the tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste.
Canterbury Tales should be
seen as an “estate satire”
There were three “estates” in the Middle
• The Church
• The Nobility
• The peasantry
Women had their own “estates”
• Maiden (virgin)
• Wife
• Widow
Estate Satire
Toward the end of the Middle Ages, the
larger social estates were breaking down.
• The mercantile class was emerging at this
time. (Urban middle class)
The intellectual class was also developing.
This was an offshoot of the church estate.
However, the members of this new estate
studied literature and were trained writers.
They were not connected with the church.
Estate Satire
Chaucer was interested in criticising the
various established estates and the
emerging ones. No one was safe from
his wit or critique.
Literary Devices Used by Chaucer
The 7 Deadly Sins
Two types of sin:
1. Venial – relatively minor
2. Mortal – in danger of eternal damnation
unless forgiven through contrition and
The 7 Deadly Sins are mortal sins!!!!
7 Deadly Sins
The 7 Deadly Sins were balance
by the 7 Holy Virtues
A word about physiognomy
A fun, but rather dubious
way to determine a
person’s character
Still, it was widely popular
in Chaucer’s day.
We need to pay attention
to the physical details
Chaucer gives us about
each character.
What’s this got to do with
By looking at what qualities Chaucer
gives to each character, we can
determine how to judge that character.
Be careful, though, Chaucer can insult
with a smile.
The Black Death –
Raged in England from 1348-1350
No one knew what caused it. Some
doctors thought a “miasma” started it.
Symptoms included
• Bulbos
• High fever
• Vomiting
• Muscular pains
Black Death – Last Slide 
Victims died in 2-4 days
30 to 40% of England’s 5 to 6 million
people died during this two year period.
Black death continued to break out in
smaller waves for years afterward.
The result in England was a labor
shortage which caused a break down of
the estates.

The Middle Ages: 1066 – 1485